Ocean pic

Benefits of A Family Vacation

Having a family is fun.

There’s first steps, summer activities, sports, band, kids making friends and a lot more.

Let’s back up to summer activities and discuss vacations. Many families go on vacations at some point. Some wait until the kids are old enough to remember them, some start going right away. Vacations are usually fun but can have a bit of mishap involved- which make for good stories.

What We Can Get Out of a Vacation

Our family has gone on two major vacations, and we are considering another over Summer Break, likely to Washington, D.C. Both times, we let the kids have input on what they wanted to do. Julian didn’t want to do anything educational, but he was overruled.

He’s really out of luck if we make it to Washington, D.C. (He has already said he will sit in the hotel room and watch YouTube while we go to museums- so he thinks.) Planning our trips was pretty fun. If your kids are old enough to do so, this can allow them to feel included and build excitement for the trip.

How you get there can be part of the fun. We chose to drive to St. Louis and Daytona Beach- for the five of us, it’s a lot cheaper. I’m the only one who has ever been on a plane. I don’t think Matthew is a fan, and we aren’t sure how Julian would do- motion sickness plus sensory issues might equal something that none of us want to experience. Plus, Lily hates heights.

The kids kept busy with books, coloring, and Netflix. I listened to music and a lot of podcasts, with breaks of talking with Matthew. We stopped plenty of times for the kids and for me to stretch so that my joints wouldn’t stiffen and my ankles wouldn’t swell.

Florida Welcome Sign

The coolest part of a family vacation? Family bonding! Until we went to Daytona Beach, Lily had never been to a beach before. The boys had been when they were much smaller, and this story can be read in The Sanders Family Goes South .

It was really fun to see the kids enjoying the ocean and collecting seashells. They will talk about that trip for a long time. We saw lots of animals, climbed a lighthouse, and walked along a pier. In St. Louis, we saw the Gateway Arch, Cameron got a patdown (he couldn’t go through the metal detector because he was on a heart monitor at the time) and we went to a children’s museum. You can read about that trip in The Sanders Family Takes on St.Louis

Family vacations aren’t all about the souvenirs, even though they are nice. I have more pictures and memories than money can buy. I think those are more important. We went to Daytona Beach during the last week of summer break and got back with three days to go before school started. This gave us just enough time to get last minute things for school, haircuts and some fun with friends before Mom kicked everyone out and was able to blog in peace.

While we were in Daytona Beach, we went to Buffalo Wild Wings for dinner and Julian tried hotter wings than he usually eats- my mom heart was thrilled. He loves hot and spicy food, much like me, and he absolutely loved them. There was extra water involved, but he ate them. He said he wanted to try something new and this is a good thing, no matter where you are.

What is Most Important?

Relaxation is key on vacation. That’s the main idea, right? There wasn’t a whole lot of time to relax in St. Louis because we were there over a weekend, but we had plenty of chill time in Daytona Beach. We slept late, sat on the beach or in the pool (at one point, we sat in the pool for hours until it rained) and went to do things when we felt like it. It was nice to not have to run around to get things done for a few days.

Summer is almost here- time to start planning!

Have you and/or your family been on a vacation lately? Have you planned one? Do you have tips? Share them in the comments.

Talking About Pride

Coming Out of the Closet

I decided to use an actual definition for this one, because I understand that not everyone may be clear on this one. I also think it’s the respectful thing to do. I’ve got friends and family members in the community, so I’m very clear on what this term means. Planned Parenthood- Coming Out Definition

It’s a hard process. Some people choose to wait until a certain time, some never do. It’s an individual choice, and should be respected. If someone comes out to you, please respect that person’s decision to tell you, even if it isn’t within your own values. It takes a lot to say “I’m a lesbian” or “I like guys”, or however it is said.

There is a lot of fear in coming out, however. Many people fear these things:

  • not being accepted. If there is a history of hearing homophobic slurs throughout life, it’s going to be hard to go against that.
  • getting cut off financially/becoming homeless- especially in teens and college students. Some wait until after college for this reason.
  • anxiety, depression or other mental health issues worsening afterwards due to above issues.

There is so much more support these days for the LGBTQ+ community. I feel there is a long way to go in the legal world, but it’s coming.

Marriages were a huge issue a couple years ago and I shed tears when they became legal everywhere. I believe some states are still trying to fight that one. Macklemore had it right when he said in “Same Love”- “No freedom until we’re equal/ Damn right I support it”.

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Pride Events

Have you ever been to a Pride event? I have been to quite a few. Louisville is a big city and every June, there’s a huge Pride event. The event has lots of food (my main requirement for anything), music and a lot of other fun things.

I usually see a lot of friends while I’m there. It’s so much fun. If you’ve never been, and you’re comfortable going, go. If you aren’t sure if there is an event near you, try looking on Google “pride events” and your city or the nearest city to you. Not everyone lives in or near a big city.

These events began as a way for people to get together, have fun, be themselves, meet others and not fear being judged or getting hurt. Of course, this didn’t always go well but over the years, the events have become safer. There will always be those that oppose these events.

The Kid Version

I have a friend, Kate, that is happily raising a son, with her wife, Christy. Lucas just turned two, and he is the happiest toddler that I’ve seen in a long time.

I hope he stays that adorably happy. They got married in Hawaii a few years ago and the pictures were adorable. I know they have struggles like everyone else, but they’re one of the cutest couples I’ve ever known. Lucas is like every other toddler out there- he just has two loving moms.

I wrote a post not long ago, LGBTQ Kids: A Guide for those who need a bit of help figuring out how to navigate the waters of having a child that identifies as LGBTQ.

This is becoming more common than people realize and I wanted to bring that to your, my readers’, attention. If you know someone who could benefit from it, feel free to send them the link.

I think it could help parents who aren’t sure what to do. We don’t always know what to do as parents, or even aunts, uncles, and so on. That’s okay. That’s why we ask others for ideas and read up.

Kids are pretty smart. They can tell who accepts them and who doesn’t. They’ll stay closest to those that do. All kids, no matter their sexuality, need someone who loves and accepts them exactly for who they are. They don’t need or deserve ridicule for who they love. They have enough to worry about.

Mental Health Issues in The Community

Anxiety and depression are common in many people. When you are struggling with hiding who you are (or feeling like you have to), losing someone you love and having to start over in a small pool of people and not feeling fully accepted,things can get very hard.

Drugs, alcohol and self-harm are three coping skills that are used by this population. Sometimes it can be deadly. There are therapists that specialize in LGBTQ issues.

This may be a good time to look into how you can become an ally or otherwise support the LGBTQ people in your life. How can you be an ally?

Pics courtesy of Unsplash

Another School Year Ends: Good, Bad and Graduations

Every school year so far has been interesting with my kids. One school year ended with Cameron in the hospital with a heart condition. Julian was diagnosed during his kindergarten year in 2011 (you can read Looking At the Bright Side for that story). Lily had difficulties learning to read but tackled it in the first grade.

The Big Moves

This year was a big one, however. Cameron graduated middle school and is now a high school freshman. This one hurts my soul a bit- I have no idea where the last almost 15 years have gone. He will be 15 in January and I didn’t think the time would fly so quickly!

In our district, your child has the option to choose middle and high schools based on programs they have- Cameron chose two high schools that had machine tool, medical tech, and auto collision programs.

The high school he got into is the one that Matthew and I met at in 1998. He chose the program with machine tool, CAD (Computer Aided Design) and another component. His elective is Spanish I because, as he put it, “It’s easy and I already know some anyway.”

Some of his friends from middle school are bilingual and he picked up some Spanish from them. He didn’t really like the other choices, so he went with something he was familiar with.

Off to high school he goes in August, and I might shed a tear. I’m still shocked I didn’t cry at his graduation.

Lily is out of elementary school. She’s the last one, so it was time to say goodbye to the school that we loved for nine years- starting with Cameron in 2010. Our kids went to a wonderful elementary school. I even loved the office staff! I did tear up during her graduation ceremony and watching her as a song leader during the class song.

The school does a “final walk” on the last day of school for the fifth graders, where they walk through the main hallway for the last time, while playing cheerful music and everyone claps and cheers. I took pics and almost cried…again.

Matthew, my mom and I missed the breakfast because we had to walk across the parking lot for Cameron’s graduation. (The elementary and middle schools that our kids attended share an entrance, but have different parking lots. Parking is awful during events.)

Wait…You’re Missing a Kid!

Nope. Julian didn’t have a huge ceremony for finishing seventh grade, but he wasn’t forgotten.

I had a last-minute check in with his counselor.

Julian was re-evaluated at the end of the year to see if he will need services for next year, and of course, he qualified. He has severe anxiety while speaking in front of others and this became a major issue this year.

I asked for modifications next year so that he will be able to do what he needs to but not affect him so badly. He will be able to complete these assignments in a different way, meaning he can go in a different room or a hallway to do presentations so that he isn’t so anxious. He will be able to effectively complete the assignment.

His counselor told me that he remains quiet and kind of “flies under the radar”. He’s always been quiet, so this is not surprising at all. We will be working on self-advocacy because that is something Julian needs to work on for the future.

I was a bit angry with Julian because we both thought that he had failed his math class and I know he can do a lot better. Turns out that he didn’t and has a B. Both of us were very happy to hear this.

Waiting for Next School Year

It appears as if we now have sixth, eighth, and ninth graders. These kids are growing faster than I can blink. I’m pretty sure Cameron will continue to need those naps after school. Lily has gone back and forth on being excited about middle school, but I think once she finds her friends from elementary school and a club or two to join, she will be okay. Julian will find eighth grade a challenge, but he needs one.

Me? It’s summer break and I intend to have all the fun I can have with these kids in the next couple of months.

What are your plans for the summer? How was the end of your kids’ school year?

A Morning Walk for Autism

Every June, a local autism based organization, FEAT (Families for Effective Autism Treatment) holds a 5k run/1-mile walk.

The registration fee raises money for classes and other things to help kids with autism around the city. There are booths at the walk from nearby businesses and first responders show up. They talk to kids and parents about safety tips.

You can guess which option I choose, right? I don’t run. I’ve never been a runner but I have friends who are very passionate about it and I am thrilled for them.

I’m a big girl on top (sports bras are not fun to buy) and not with these joints. I wouldn’t make it to the bottom of my driveway, much less just over three miles.

80’s Music and Water

I require lots of water and music to walk and this one had both. I love 80’s music and I even turned off the very interesting podcast I was listening to so I could hear it.

I got there a bit early because the parking gets packed about an hour before the walk starts. I didn’t want to get stuck way in the back like I did last year. Julian and I got stuck walking for almost twenty minutes trying to find my car and neither of us was happy. This year I got lucky and found a great spot.

The walk offers shuttles from the parking lot to the starting point because it is a bit of a walk. I guess it’s so you don’t tire yourself out before the walk starts? I took one there and back.

Mom’s Solitary Walk

Julian decided he didn’t want to walk this year. He was sleeping when I left but was awake when I got home.

I lined up with hundreds of other people and completed the walk in less than 20 minutes. While I walked, I listened to Lizzo and other artists. I didn’t mind the time to myself.

Mom needs time to herself, especially with the school about to be over.

I stopped to look at a couple of booths before leaving the walk.

Finish line pic

I made it to the finish line!

Teal ribbon

My pretty ribbon

Every walker got a ribbon, and they give the kids toys along the way. I went home, took Lily to a birthday party and lay down for a while. I had to recharge.

A Small Reflection

I’ve done this walk off and on since 2013. I have walked as part of a team for the hospital I used to work for, then with a friend who also has a son with autism (his brother had baseball championships so they missed it this year) and with my family.

Matthew and the kids decided not to walk any more after the year Lily gave out at mile two and we had to carry her to the end. Last year, it was just Julian and I. He had more fun than he wanted to confess to.

I have a deep passion for those with autism, especially kids. They’re great to work with- just be ready for an adventure.

Do you participate in any walks or other awareness activities?

Recommended Reading:

To see pics from last year’s FEAT walk: My Fearless Leader

Book Review: The Spark

LGBTQ Kids: A Guide

Parenting is full of challenges. We face them everyday- food allergies, mental and/or physical disabilities, bullying, and the list goes on.

There’s a point in life in which our kids decide to date and none of us are ever ready for that- it freaks us out. This happens as early as 12 or 13 or can be years later.

Most of us don’t blink an eye at who they will date, because we just assume they will date someone of the opposite sex, right?

What Happens When They Don’t?

I’ve already thought this one out. I don’t care. As long as my kids find someone that loves and supports them, I honestly don’t care who they date. Race isn’t an issue for obvious reason, and that’s not the topic of the post.

I just want my kids to be happy with whoever they love. That’s it. If Lily brings home a girl and they get married, then I get to watch them say yes to the dress or whatever they wear.

Lgbt flag, kids, parenting

Being a teen is hard enough as it is today. There’s so much pressure to get great grades, fit in, get into a good college, work, and so on.

When you’re a 16 year old girl who likes other girls, it gets a bit harder to be “normal”. You wonder if others would still like you, even your own family. You grew up hearing slurs about homosexuals and you know it’s not going to be great if you tell your parents.

Then there’s the boys who want to date you and you know they won’t stay away forever. All you want is to find a girl that likes you and that you like back, but how does that work? It’s confusing and scary. Bullying is a thing, and LGBTQ teens have it harder.

Stats hrc.org, kids, LGBTQ

Coming out is scary. It’s rough. The average age is 17, much younger than it used to be according to a British study found on Everyday Feminism

Teens are smart- they know the risks of telling their families something this big. Some families are accepting, and some families are ready to kick their kids right out of the house, which is a shame.

It’s heartbreaking to know that some kids feel they have to hide this part of themselves, because it can lead to drug and/or substance abuse issues, along with mental health issues, like depression and anxiety. A kid can only mask so much for so long. It does get better, time goes by, people do open their minds to new things.

Sometimes the people they think will have horrible reactions will have the opposite reaction. The negative messages are also an issue- they can send a message that a kid is a bad person, or is “going to hell”, etc. This can just add to already negative thoughts that a kid can have about themselves.

It gets better when LGBTQ kids find others like them- online, in school, through other friends, in other ways. It does help that many LGBTQ kids are out to their friends and classmates. Those friends and classmates, for the most part, are accepting, and can be a great source of support.

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What Can Parents Do?

  • Let them know you love them. I’m pretty sure this is the biggest part of accepting your child, no matter what. They need to know this. The scariest thing to many LGBTQ kids is coming out. Once they know they have parental support, there is a huge sense of relief. Be as open minded and present as you can be, even if you aren’t quite sure what to do.
  • Research. Parenting requires a lot of thinking and reading. We don’t always know what to do. That’s why the Internet exists. There are quite a few websites for parents of LGBTQ kids, including Hopkins Medicine
  • Talk about it. This doesn’t mean hound about their sex life, because that’s definitely awkward for everyone involved, but let them know you are there when they need you, if they have questions, etc.
  • Remember this is not a “phase”, there is no “cure”, and there is nobody to “blame”.
  • Watch out for bullying at school. It’s a reality that LGBTQ kids are bullied at school and other places. If you need to, get involved with the school. You can read Bullying: A Closer Look for more ideas and resources.
  • Talk to someone if you feel overwhelmed.

Female couple, acceptance

The world of teenage dating can get pretty complicated, this is just a different road. It’s possible to walk together with your child. Cheer them on!

Pics courtesy of Unsplash

Statistics pics courtesy of hrc.org

Info can be found on:

Everyday Feminism

Hopkins Medicine